Palia (Palaia, Old) Potamia

The abandoned settlement of Palia (or Palaia) Potamia is a fascinating architectural landmark, where derelict houses stand as silent witnesses to a once thriving community. The ruined settlement, with its amphitheatrically arranged dwellings, presents a truly striking and imposing image for visitors. Palaia Potamia was established in a gorge in the foothills of the eastern flank of Mt Amani in the north-west of Chios, at the confluence of two seasonal streams, the “Apesos” and the “Karydatos”. This village was founded by the inhabitants of the medieval settlement of Agios Georgios near Pirama.
Agios Georgios was visible from the sea and was thus a prime target for pirates. Fed up with pirate raids, its inhabitants founded the village of Palaia Potamia c. 1600. They were drawn to this place thanks to the naturally defensible local terrain, which provided safety from the raids. But safety came with a price: its isolated position meant that the village only had two hours of sunlight daily, fostering a rather unhealthy microclimate. Diseases, especially tuberculosis, were inevitable. The disease ravaged the inhabitants, who gradually began to abandon the settlement in the mid-20th century in favour of the new settlement at Nea Potamia, just 2 kilometres away.

The village schoolmaster, Ioannis Michael Poulis, was instrumental to this resettlement. He drew up a petition decrying the unsanitary and isolated living conditions in the village and requesting resettlement, had it signed by the villagers, and on 23 April 1956 he delivered it to the Office of the Prefecture. The decision to resettle was also influenced by the destruction of the road network in the 1949 earthquake and the resultant difficulty in accessing the villages of Amani. The new village was inaugurated on 25 May 1964, and by 1970 all the inhabitants of the old village had resettled there. A hallmark of the old village is the schoolhouse building, erected in 1912 by the villagers themselves. The parish church, dedicated to St Anthony, has been renovated and sits opposite the old settlement, amidst a lush green backdrop.

Church of St Anthony
Visitors can find the church of St Anthony directly opposite the abandoned settlement of Palia (Palaia) Potamia. It’s a barrel-vaulted single-nave building, accessed by a door in the western wall. A marble plaque dated to 1800 has been embedded in the wall just off the main entrance. Written evidence mentions the existence of the church to the 18th century, while the impressive marble iconostasis inside is dated to the 19th century. However, there is no other archival or archaeological evidence regarding the first architectural phase of this monument. It served as the main parish church before the settlement was abandoned, a fact also demonstrated by its ample size.
Every year, on the eve 16 January, the saint’s commemoration day, the residents of Nea Potamia visit the abandoned village to attend the evening liturgy dedicated to their patron saint, Anthony. This visit is associated with a custom: the inhabitants light lanterns in the abandoned houses and the old schoolhouse to commemorate their ancestors. It’s a striking “resurrection” of sorts, with faint rays of light visible in the long-derelict houses and other buildings for one solemn night. Known as the “anafermos”, this custom takes place every year and is an important local event.

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